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International Cricket: Bairstow brilliance sums up new approach

Jonny Bairstow is in the form of his life and seems to have benefitted the most from England's fresh attacking approach under new head coach Brendon McCullum.

The Yorkshireman was once again key in Monday's historic victory over India at Edgbaston, registering his 12th Test century as England completed the highest run chase in their Test history - reaching 378-3 on the final day in Birmingham like it was a straightforward task.

Stunning turnaround

It has been a stunning five weeks for England - 13/8 to win the next Ashes series and 7/2 to triumph at the T20 World Cup later this year - under the new guidance of New Zealander McCullum and Bairstow has been front and centre of the revival.

England went into the home series against the Black Caps at the start of June having only won one of their previous 17 Tests, but they secured a thrilling 3-0 win over the Kiwis and then followed it up with victory over the Indians in the delayed fifth and final Test to level the series held over from last summer 2-2.

An ongoing theme across all the matches has been playing without fear of defeat. In all three Tests against the Black Caps and the one against India, England were, at times, up against it and seemingly heading for defeat or, at best, a draw.

Attacking approach paying off

However, they have approached each run-chase with an optimistic mindset. Already this summer, England have chased down targets of 277, 296 and 299 and now they can add this mammoth 378 to the list.

There is clearly a feeling in the camp that whatever challenge they are presented with they can overcome it. The positive approach - epitomised by Bairstow - is reaping its rewards and confidence levels inside the dressing room are soaring.

Indeed, after beating India, new captain Ben Stokes spoke about how a new-found "clarity" in the instructions being given to the players before they head out onto the pitch had led to the much-improved results and Bairstow has been one of the main beneficiaries.

Stokes said: "He (Bairstow) has embraced it and just gone out there and done it. The clarity he's been given has just really helped him go out and do what he's done over the last five weeks."

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Centuries piling up

Bairstow's 114 not out at Edgbaston was his second century of the match and remarkably his fourth ton in five innings. Even in the one he didn't get to triple figures in he made a big contribution, scoring 71 not out at Headingley.

Much of the praise has rightly gone to McCullum for the turnaround in England's fortunes, but Stokes deserves plenty of credit too, stepping into the captaincy role when plenty of people questioned if he was the right man to succeed Joe Root.

He is obviously on board with McCullum's attacking approach and has been able to help create the perfect environment for Bairstow, and others, to shine.

Bairstow is not the only one who is thriving under McCullum and Stokes' leadership, with Root - seemingly freed from the pressure of being skipper - playing some of his best ever cricket.

The Yorkshire star's 142 not out at Edgbaston was his 28th Test ton and 11th since the beginning of 2021 and he is revelling playing alongside county colleague Bairstow.

The duo's crucial unbroken partnership of 269 in Birmingham was the fourth-highest by any pair in the fourth innings of a Test.

South Africa next up in August

After winning four out of four Tests since the change in coach and captain, England's next five-day assignment is a home three-match series against South Africa, with the opening Test at Lord's getting under way on 17th August.

After what they've witnessed recently, England fans will be hoping this is just the start of what has been termed 'Bazball' and there are plenty more thrilling moments to come.

Critics will point out England have not had it all their own way in the New Zealand series and against India, but when it mattered most they came out fighting and their attacking approach has paid off superbly.

It's certainly been a dream start for McCullum and Bairstow's remarkable recent renaissance has been the highlight.

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